By Kurt Madar
Pilot staff writer
SMITH RIVER, Calif. Mary Anne Hague of Crescent City sang her way to glory in front of a packed and rowdy audience at the first-ever Cal-Or Idol competition Saturday night.
The contest, modeled after the television show American Idol, was held at the Ship Ashore Resort Lounge where a crowd estimated at 90 or more watched the finalists try to belt their way to victory.
Hague was chosen as the first place winner among five finalists. The other contestants were Collin Oka Jr. of Brookings; Mariah Gurney of Brookings; Meng Lo of Crescent City, Calif.; and Hillary Hartman, of Crescent City.
Hague's triumph was rewarded with several paid opportunities to perform as the leading act. The first concert will be at the Muse Theatrix Studio in Brookings, the second at the Smith River Festival in August.
In response to her win, Hague praised her fellow contestants effusively. "They are all my friends now," she said. She also thanked her family, "especially my daughters who are sitting way in back."
The competition was a karaoke style sing-off in which contestants chose their own songs. Hague sang "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt, and "Dancing in the Streets" by Martha and the Vandellas.
The Cal-Or Idol was a fundraiser for Muse Theatrix a non-profit theater company in Brookings primarily for kids. According to Muse Theatrix's co-owner, Haley McElle, the event netted around $1,000 after costs.
"We are really happy with how it went. The contestants enjoyed it so much that they are planning on holding another benefit concert at Muse Theatrix in the near future," McElle said.
The event was the brainchild of McElle and Stephanie LaTorre of Crescent City Sound and Entertainment. LaTorre served as host, and provided entertaining repartee with the judges between contestants. Her husband, Tony LaTorre, was the DJ.
The contest attracted singers by running radio and newspaper ads and circulating flyers. All the contestants have some musical background. Meng Lo, of Crescent City, has been a singer since he was in fifth grade. "I've sung choir for most of my life," he said.
The contest was judged by KCRE/KPOD radio personalities Rene Shanle-Hutzell, Chuck Clifford and John Pritchett. During the show, the judges provided commentary on the quality of the performances, using criteria such as how closely the particular song matched the original, how well each performer used the stage and, in the case of Meng Lo, how nicely he was dressed.
The winner was ultimately picked by audience voting. Hillary Hartman was runner-up and, according to the judges, it was almost impossible to decide between she and Hague.
"I'm glad I don't have to make the final decision," Shanle-Hutzell said.
The camaraderie among the contestants was impressive. During a picture-taking break from performing, the five broke into an impromptu rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
"This may have been the first ever Cal-Or Idol, but it won't be the last," LaTorre said.